[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: The Snake Oil Salesman of Zzyzx | 04-20-2017
Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
69°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 20
2001 - Then-Assemblyman George Runner introduces legislation to memorialize the historic Ridge Route. Enacted Oct. 4. [story]


Commentary by Linda Castro
| Thursday, Apr 20, 2017

The sign for exit 239 on Interstate 15, six miles southwest of Baker, says “Zzyzx Road.” Have you ever gotten off at that exit to explore? Have you wondered what is down that road?

First, you might be wondering how to pronounce this strange word. Zzyzx is pronounced “Zī – zĭx,” with the emphasis on the first syllable. Zzyzx is a made-up word.

The Zzyzx area has had human inhabitants since prehistoric times due to the spring (Soda Springs) and Soda Lake, now a dry lake bed. Projectile points and rock art have been found in the area.

The Mojave Road runs near Zzyzx. The road began as a trail used by Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, explorers and settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The land passed into U.S. hands in 1848, and in early 1858 what had become known as the Mohave Trail became the Mojave Road, a wagon road that connected with other significant trails such as the Santa Fe Trail.

In 1859, the Mojave Road came under the purview of the U.S. military. Army posts were established along the route to protect settlers and travelers from the attacks of the resident Paiute, Mojave and Chemehuevi peoples until 1871. This also opened the way for large mining development in the Mojave Desert region of San Bernardino County. The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, built in the early 1900s to carry ore from the California deserts to ports in the Los Angeles area, also had a station in the area named Soda Springs.

All of this history is similar to that of many other places in California’s desert. However, in 1944, this area was used for a rather unusual purpose: a health spa.

Curtis Howe Springer opened the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Healing Center in 1944 at this location, which was federal land, after filing dubious mining claims for about 12,000 acres surrounding the springs. He gave the area the made-up name of Zzyzx, claiming it to be the last word in the English language.

Springer was a self-professed medical doctor and Methodist minister, but he did not hold a license to be either. He was a radio evangelist in Pennsylvania in the 1930s, and he used that platform to convince his faithful followers to move to Zzyzx so they could begin a utopian way of living with an abundance of miracle cures.

Once Springer decided upon the location of his utopian desert healing center, he began to recruit laborers to carry out his dream. He would drive a bus to Skid Row in Los Angeles to find recruits and promise them food and shelter in exchange for work. Some of the workers quit upon learning of the policy prohibiting alcohol, but many stayed for years.

Springer promoted his healing center on his syndicated religious radio show and asked listeners for donations for his miracle cures. The miracle elixirs were marketed as the cure for everything from hemorrhoids to cancer. Springer’s most popular potion was one that he claimed cured baldness: Mo-Hair. After users rubbed Mo-Hair onto their scalps, they were instructed to bend over and hold their breath for as long as possible. When the blood rushed to their head from lack of oxygen, Springer would claim that their red faces proved his miracle potion was working.

For the next 30 years, hundreds of visitors came to Springer’s spa in search of a healthier lifestyle. But Springer’s scheming business practices would eventually catch up to him.

Springer attempted to sell land adjacent to Zzyzx, despite the fact he did not own the land. This, along with lawsuits brought against him by disgruntled users of Mo-Hair, eventually brought government attention to him and to Zzyzx. The Bureau of Land Management evicted Springer and his followers and reclaimed the land in 1974.

Since 1976, the BLM has allowed the California State University to operate its Desert Studies Center at the site of the old spa. A consortium of CSU campuses uses the area for their study of the desert. The buildings and pond developed by Springer are still there today.

Zzyzx is open to the public. Exit at Zzyzx Road and travel on the road for about five miles along the western shore of Soda Dry Lake until the road ends at a parking lot. You can stroll around Lake Tuendae and along the shore of Soda Dry Lake. If classes are in session, please be courteous and do not disturb participants.

Zzyzx is now also included in the Mojave National Preserve, established in 1994.

Zzyzx is a short detour off of Interstate 15 and is a quirky part of California’s desert history.

 

Linda Castro is the Desert Field Organizer for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.

 

 

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Dan says:

    Fascinating article! I’ve passed by the turn-off many times and have wondered about what might have gone on there. I thought it was probably minding. I did hear that it was named because it would always be last in any alphabetical order. Next time I’ll get off the road and have a look. I hope you write more of these interesting pieces. Thanks!

Leave a Comment


Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Related Content
RECENT COMMENTARY
Thursday, Jul 20, 2017
Much of the dramatic decline of the yellow-billed cuckoo in California has been directly attributed to breeding habitat loss and degradation from lands being converted to agricultural and other urban uses.
Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017
The Newhall Ranch project will create nearly 74,000 permanent jobs within the region and an estimated 130,000 construction jobs over the decades it will take to build the project, and it will provide a variety of housing types from apartments and starter homes to places to raise a family, from affordable housing to executive housing.
Friday, Jul 14, 2017
Medicare covers a variety of heath care services that you can get in the comfort and privacy of your home. These include intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech-language pathology services, and occupational therapy.
Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017
In their attempt to usurp the Division of State Architect's role in the reopening of Acton School, the Acton-Agua Dulce school board has exposed itself to possible penalties being levied against the district, or civil lawsuits against individual board members.
Sunday, Jul 9, 2017
Python hunters work in pairs. One is the puller and one is the “hole guy.” The hole guy crawls into the hole to face the python head-on. When he’s bitten and the snake is holding on tight, the puller pulls out the hole guy, and the snake comes out with him.
Wednesday, Jul 5, 2017
As the temperatures go up this week, a great way to cool off is to head to one of the City’s six pools, says Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Much of the dramatic decline of the yellow-billed cuckoo in California has been directly attributed to breeding habitat loss and degradation from lands being converted to agricultural and other urban uses.
Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoos | Commentary by Linda Castro
2001 - Then-Assemblyman George Runner introduces legislation to memorialize the historic Ridge Route. Enacted Oct. 4. [story]
The Painted Turtle's North Los Angeles Regional Advisory Board will present a "Hoedown BBQ" fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit organization on Saturday, October 28 starting at 3:30 p.m.
October 28: ‘Hoedown BBQ’ to Benefit The Painted Turtle
Award-winning Santa Clarita architectural artist Thomas W. Schaller will demonstrate watercolor painting at the Santa Clarita Artists Association meeting on Monday, Sept. 18, at 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 18: Water Color Painting Demo at SCAA Meeting
The Newhall Ranch project will create nearly 74,000 permanent jobs within the region and an estimated 130,000 construction jobs over the decades it will take to build the project, and it will provide a variety of housing types from apartments and starter homes to places to raise a family, from affordable housing to executive housing.
Why Newhall Ranch is Good for SCV | Commentary by Holly Schroeder
Hart School District officials met with Ms. Maggie Ford from Albert Einstein Academy Wednesday morning to confirm that the Hart-Einstein Charter in Santa Clarita (grades 7-12) will be closing.
Einstein Academy to Close 7-12 Charter School
The Santa Clarita Artists Association will present a Summer Art Festival at Tournament Players Club in Stevenson Ranch on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 8 and 9, from 9 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sept. 8-9: SCAA Summer Arts Festival at TPC
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, prosecutors are not pressing charges against a man who detectives believed started the Towsley Fire. Plus, find out when the new SCV Sheriff's Station will officially open. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Award-winning Santa Clarita artist Laurie Morgan presents a one-woman show at FastFrame Valencia during October, with a wine and hors d’oeuvres opening reception set for Saturday, October 7 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
October: Laurie Morgan 1-Woman Show at FastFrame Valencia
Air quality will be unhealthy for all individuals in the Santa Clarita Valley on Thursday, according to an AQMD alert.
SCV Air Quality Unhealthy Thursday
'Summer Daze,' the Santa Clarita Artists Association's new show, is now on display at the SCAA Art Gallery in Newhall through August 19.
‘Summer Daze’ on Display at SCAA Art Gallery Till August 19
Santa Clarita resident Collin Lee, an experienced copywriter but newcomer to picture books, recently won an IPPY, one of the world’s top independent book awards, for his book "The Efil Brothers."
Santa Clarita Author Wins IPPY Gold Medal for Children’s Book
The new Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station to be built on Golden Valley Road between Sierra Highway and Centre Pointe Drive is slated to open in 2020, according to project officials.
New SCV Sheriff’s Station Slated to Open in 2020
The streets in Santa Clarita listed in this story will be affected for the week of July 19-28 for the city's Road Rehab Project.
July 19-28: Santa Clarita Roads in Rehab
The city of Santa Clarita has received an Investment Policy Certificate of Excellence Award from the Association of Public Treasurers of the United States and Canada for its Fiscal Year 2017-18 Investment Policy.
Santa Clarita Receives National Award for Investment Policy
Santa Clarita ranks No. 237 overall on a new survey of the top 300 American cities that are most friendly to first-time homebuyers published this week by WalletHub.
Santa Clarita Ranks Low on List of Cities Friendly to First-Time Homebuyers
Students in the Teenage Drama Workshop at California State University, Northridge have set the stage for children and parents to strengthen their relationships at nearly a dozen live performances of “Into the Woods Jr.” and “The Lion King Jr.” scheduled throughout July.
CSUN Teenage Drama Workshop Stages Famed Children’s Fables
Choreographer, director and CalArts alumna Meryl Murman (Dance-IM MFA 14) is bringing her CalArts MFA thesis "Ways of Forgetting" to the screen with the help of CalArtian collaborators.
CalArts Grads Collaborate on Dance Film ‘Ways of Forgetting’
Van Halen tribute band The Atomic Punks will add to their storied career with a free show at Santa Clarita’s Concerts in the Park at Central Park on Saturday, July 22, starting at 7 p.m.
Get 5150 with Atomic Punks Saturday Night
Longtime Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club manager Matt Nelson has been promoted to Chief Professional Officer after a unanimous vote by the club's Governing Board of Directors.
Nelson Named New Head of SCV Boys & Girls Club
The Western Native Trout Initiative, which works to save the iconic native trout of the American West, has created a series of four-part courses full of tips and tricks for chasing western native trout.
Chasing Western Trout with the Western Native Trout Initiative
College of the Canyons men's basketball head coach Howard Fisher is currently in Israel coaching the USA Youth Men's Basketball team during the 20th World Maccabiah Games, and posted his fifth entry after their gold medal win.
COC’s Fisher, Team USA Win Gold at World Maccabiah Games
1924 - Sherman Block, L.A. County's 29th Sheriff (1982-1998), born in Chicago [story]
Tonight on SCV NewsBreak, a brush fire sparked by a car burned a couple acres Tuesday morning. Plus, the Board of Supervisors certified two developments in the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan. Watch these stories and more on tonight's edition of SCV NewsBreak.
SCV NewsBreak for Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Join us at Infiniti of Valencia in their newly remodeled showroom for the premier business networking event in the Santa Clarita Valley. Mix and mingle with the business leaders and entrepreneurs to expand your network.
July 19: Chamber Mixer at Infiniti of Valencia
On a 4-0 vote with Supervisor Kuehl abstaining, the Board of Supervisors certified the environmental impact report for Mission Village and Landmark Village, part of the Newhall Ranch Specific Plan, in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Supes Reapprove Landmark Village, Mission Village
Prosecutors declined to press charges against a man who detectives believe started a fire in the Newhall Pass last week.
Lancaster Man Won’t Face Charges for Towsley Fire
Grab the family and join us for Fit Family Activities.
Fit Family Fridays Still Going Strong at SCV YMCA
The Hart District is looking to end childhood hunger and food waste this fall with a new program to help alleviate both concerns.
Hart District to Launch Food Recovery Program
Law enforcement and firefighters will converge in the Santa Clarita Valley in August for friendly competition as part of the 32nd annual World Police and Fire Games (WPFG).
SCV Home to 32nd Annual World Police and Fire Games
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today toured the Summer Learning program at Robla Elementary School in the Robla School District to voice his opposition to proposed federal budget cuts that would harm this program and many others in California and the nation.
Torlakson: Proposed Budget Cuts Harm Extended Learning Programs
CHP officers ended a pursuit in Castaic without incident Monday night, after a driver failed to pull over when officers attempted a traffic stop.
Late Night Pursuit Ends With Pit Maneuver in Castaic
Women are invited to join in their charitable initiative by donating a gently used handbag and will receive $25 To $50 towards a new Brighton handbag.
Handbag Trade-In Underway at Cobblestone Cottage
Here's a roundup of crimes in Newhall (Zone 6) reported to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station during the week of July 3, 2017.
Crime Blotter: Burglary, Grand Theft, Assault in Newhall
Well, we can certainly tell from the social media BUZZ around town that you are VERY excited about the upcoming Cocktails on the Roof on August 25, 2017.
Aug. 17: Pre-Party for Cocktails on the Roof Benefitting WiSH Foundation
UPDATE 9:50 a.m. Fire officials said the progress has been stopped, and fire officials are still working to mop up.
UPDATE: Car Sparks Fire in Newhall; Progress Stopped